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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Horror > Superhero > Blade (1997/DTS/Region 2)

Blade (1998/Region 2 Japan DTS DVD Edition)


Picture: B+     Sound: A     Extras: C     Film: B+



NOTE: This title is now on Blu-ray in the U.S.!



What on earth might possess someone to track down a Japanese edition of Blade and pay 3,900 yen?  That’s about $38 in U.S. dollars for just a single disc DVD edition of the film.  While it might seem minor to some, this is a very sought after DVD in just about any market due to the fact that it is the ONLY DVD edition in the world at the time of this review to hear Blade in DTS.  Unless you were fortunate to hear Blade either in theaters or on a short lived 12” LaserDisc pressing of the film in DTS, you will certainly want to track down this disc regardless of the cost.  This is the type of thing that makes audiophiles drool! 


It would also seem that there are little attempt to re-issue Blade in DTS in the near future as well, since New Line has rarely re-released any of their catalog and upgraded.  Perhaps once the new High Definition formats arrive, but it will take a lot to knock this DVD out of the water, at least when it comes to the sound.  I can safely say that this DVD will not disappoint and offers something that very few audio tracks offer, even some of the really great ones out there. 


First, let’s talk a little about the film in general and then onto the goodies.  What distinguishes a film like Blade from most of the films similar out there, especially now in the Marvel days, is its dark nature and the way in which it adheres to the comic character.  Despite having two fairly decent sequels, none of them quite compare to the first film.  One thing that clearly stands out for this film is the way in which it treats the content and does every attempt, mostly through the ‘look’ of the film to capture the comic book essence.  Notice some of the scope framing and cutting that is done to achieve this.  Also the film stock used gives us both a dark gothic look, but at the same time also produces some really clean and refined moments with certain colors, namely blood red.


The film began the current cycle of Marvel heroes to film that failed for decades until this film got it right.  Wesley Snipes was (pardon the pun) dead-on in the title role in one of his best commercial films ever.  The sequels had their moments, but this film is the one that stuck closest to the Horror/Vampire concept, with themes of death, mortality and enough existential dread (including in some of the humor) to be the minor classic it is.


Cinematographer Theo van de Sande’s camerawork is unique and fitting for this film, which set it apart from the two sequels.  Blade II was then shot in 1.85 X 1 versus the scope 2.35 X 1 ratio, while Blade Trinity returned back to the scope ratio, but has a completely different look and feel to the film.  The anamorphic 2.35 X 1 transfer for this disc looks fantastic and yields excellent color reproduction and fidelity.  The film was somewhat shot with a black and white look, with a bluish filter in order to give it a dark look, unlike the sequels that went for a more golden hue.  Blood red looks fantastic and the level of detail shown in his jacket is awesome.  This is far better than the old U.S. transfer, which never captured the image correctly.


I have often compared back and forth an interesting phenomenon that occurred in 1998 between two films.  Those two films being Blade and the first Matrix film, and if you compared them back-to-back you will find some amazing similarities.  Think about it…both films have leather clad heroes, both films have sunglass toting heroes, both films use techno soundtracks, both films were shot in scope, both films were released in 1998 and within a short period of time of one another, both films include a subway action scene.  Both films involve martial arts and similar fighting styles, and from a storyline perspective both films involve characters that are in a world that is becoming overrun by another kind (Blade has vampires, the Matrix has artificial intelligence).  These are just some of the many similarities between these two films, but Blade in my humble opinion is the better film and also had better sequels.  


The Japanese edition offers three listening options.  The first and most obvious to listen to is the full bit rate (1509 kbps) DTS audio option followed by an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a Japanese 2.0 Dolby mix.  The Dolby Digital mix sounds similar to the one offered on the U.S. Region 1 disc that always seemed to undermine the film.  Detail, dimension, depth, character, and the overall sound design for the film never seemed to be able to penetrate through, mainly due to Dolby’s lower kilobits-per-second transfer that for whatever reason keeps the film more compressed and lacks the punch.  Low end and high end is dramatically tighter and fuller in DTS, and gives the film the prominence it deserves.  In a rare instance, this is the same full bit rate DTS from the 12” LaserDisc making it onto a DVD.


From the very opening of the film the DTS will engage you like very few soundtrack presentations can.  From the low rumbling to the really tight upper range of the sound this is an amazing crystal clear soundtrack that is constantly engaging and riveting.  In fact, most of the sound puts you into a hyper-real type of setting versus the normal exaggerated sound mix that helps distinguish the film from being theatrical in nature, but with this you truly feel like you are hearing it live.  A close listen will reveal a superb amount of higher-end clarity coming through that is not found in even some of the best DTS transfers out there. The film itself always had a tremendous sound design that was mainly driven by some of the groundbreaking technology used at the time in order to capture some really fascinating sound dimensions.  It is because of this that Blade in DTS is one of a kind and worth owning just to show off how amazing a film can sound. 


Chances are you are simply after this DVD for the sound, so therefore the light extras will hardly matter.  If you want extras such as the commentary or the terrific extras that were issued on the Region 1 disc, than by all means go right ahead, but if you want a real presentation of the film you will want to stick with this one.  There are a short amount of extras that include some interviews, but aside from that the disc remains light in order to keep the full bit rate space needed for the DTS audio. 


You will certainly want to be somewhere between a moderate to die-hard fan in order to want this disc.  Also, you will want to have the capabilities to experience the film in all it’s glory, but every penny (or Yen) spent on this will well be worth it when you invite some friends over and their mouths hit the floor during the first fight scene knowing that they are not able to hear the film that way on their DVD editions.



-   Nate Goss


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